Program features teen who began book club for black students

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — When a black student from St. Louis created a book club because didn’t find books at his majority-white school’s library that told stories of people who look like him, he had no idea his initiative would land him on Disney’s screen as a hero.

Sidney Keys III founded Books n Bros, a book club for black boys and others ages 7 to 13 years old.

Now the 13-year-old is the focus of Disney’s “The Spectacular Sidney,” a 30-minute documentary released Friday as part of Marvel’s Hero Project. Streaming on Disney Plus, the short film series, which began its first season in November 2019, recognizes how young people are making a difference.

“I do it to promote African American literacy,” Sidney said. “Kids, especially kids of color, like to read books that they can relate to. Adults force books on them, which they might not like.”

For Sidney, it has always been about reading books.

“The school I was going to at the time was majority Caucasian, so I didn’t get to see a representation of myself in the school library. I didn’t even realize it,” Sidney told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The lack of representation clicked for him a few years ago when his mother took him to EyeSeeMe in University City, the only bookstore in the area geared toward black children.

“When I saw the books at EyeSeeMe and I saw the books at my school library, I liked the books at EyeSeeMe a lot better,” he said.

He liked the bookstore so much that he wanted to join to its book club, but it was only for girls.

“So I asked if I could start a book club for boys,” he said.

For a while, Books n Bros met at the bookstore. But over time, membership has swelled and reached more than 150. Now the group meets in a space the Ferguson Youth Initiative provides free of charge.

The club’s membership costs $25 monthly, which includes a copy of the book and shipping costs. People can sponsor memberships for young boys who can’t afford the fee.

Among the books the group has read are “Danny Dollar Millionaire Extraordinaire,” graphic novels “The New Kid” and “The Supadupa Kid.” They also read “March,” which is about civil rights leader and lawmaker John Lewis; and “Hidden Figures,” which was turned into a movie, about black women working at NASA during the space race.

Now an eighth-grader at Loyola Academy of St. Louis, Sidney said his feature on Disney is surprising.

“I wouldn’t have thought, maybe two years ago, that I would be on Disney. It’s really crazy,” Sidney said. “Seeing it on Disney and seeing the Marvel logo with all of the comic pages whipping, that’s just crazy.”

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